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2021 Tata Punch First Drive Review: Hard Hitter!


The small SUV to tempt you away from hatches?

Tata Punch First Drive

The Punch is Tata’s flank attack on hatchbacks like the Maruti Suzuki Swift and Hyundai’s Grand i10 Nios. Built on Tata’s modern ALFA-ARC platform, the Nexon’s younger sibling could potentially combine the practicality and appeal of an SUV with the sophistication and ease of a modern hatch. It’s a simple idea with lots of promise, but does the Punch deliver? 

Tata Punch First Drive



Big Boi!

The Punch is immediately recognisable as a Tata. Like spotting one of the Kapoors of Bollywood, you get flashes that remind you of others within the family. The face has a strong connection to the Harrier, especially because of the LED DRLs and headlamp layout. The gloss black grille with tri-arrow cutouts for the horn remind us of the Nexon. 

 

Tata Punch First Drive

The Punch looks chunky too, as these elements are worn on a face that feels appropriately boxy and upright thanks to the stubby nose, flat hood and upright A-pillars. It is sizable too; almost as long as the Swift, with a wheelbase that’s smaller by just a few millimeters, and an overall height that is more than the Nexon! The Maruti Ignis and the Mahindra KUV100 can expect to be stared down by the Punch, hard. 

 

Tata Punch First Drive

Dimensions

 

Punch

Swift

Nexon

Length

3827

3845

3993

Width

1742

1735

1811

Height

1615

1530

1606

Wheelbase

2445

2450

2498

*in mm

 

Tata Punch First Drive

This SUV positioning is further underlined with cornering fog lamps to accompany the projector headlamps, ready-to-bash-through-shrubs plastics for the front and rear bumpers, and chunky body cladding down the sides. At the rear, handsome tail lamps stretch onto the quarter panel and the LED elements give them a premium look. It is from the rear three-quarters angle that the Punch’s stance doesn’t quite seem to flow as the square front flows into the tapered rear. But you’ll be able to look past it fairly quickly. 

Tata Punch First Drive

 

Small but substantial?

The Punch’s potency is evident even when you start examining it from the wrong end. Its claimed 366 litres of luggage space is generous, especially since the boot is large and rectangular and will take in large suitcases too. However, the high boot lip will require a bit of effort for loading heavy bags and the lack of a 60:40 split second row cuts down on flexibility when it comes to storing more, or larger, pieces of luggage. Interestingly, a full size spare wheel sits under the boot floor. Tata is also providing a puncture repair kit to cut down the hassle. 

 

Tata Punch First Drive

Getting into the second row is no hassle either as the doors open 90 degrees and the high roofline makes it easy to step in without crouching. Once sat, the welcoming nature of the backseat is obvious. There is lots of room even for six-footers, and the seats, although a bit soft, are supportive too. The large glass area and the low window line makes the cabin feel airy and apt for long journeys. 

 

Tata Punch First Drive

While the flat floor adds to the flexibility, it won't really help in sitting three abreast because of the space constraint. Also, there is no headrest for the middle occupant and the seatbelt is a lap belt as well. In terms of equipment the rear occupants get an armrest, but cupholders and power sockets are shared as they are placed on the console between the front seats.

 

Tata Punch First Drive

The driver’s seat gets height adjustment only in the top two variants; however, it provides a wide range of adjustment to accommodate both short and tall passengers. Tilt adjustment steering is standard to help you find the right seating position, but the slightly offset steering wheel is something that you will need to get used to. 

 

Tata Punch First Drive

Sophisticate

Take a moment when you get in the front seats of the Punch. Look around and feel the different plastics, then you’ll know that this Tata has nailed the details not just in design and practicality, but also the feel-good factor. The tri-arrow motif fades away from the left to the right on the white crashpad on the dash. Beautiful! The textures used on the upper portion of the dash are handsome too. The controls feel great to use - the hazard switch is well damped, as are the aircon vents and the stalks! It’s the sense of enduring quality you can only feel. 

 

Tata Punch First Drive

The Punch isn't shouty by nature, using leatherette trim sparingly - on the steering wheel and the gear knob only. The seats make do with fabric covers, albeit with a youthful pattern. The driver’s instrument cluster gets a 7” digital display and an analogue speedo, a unit we have seen on the Altroz too. It packs familiar screens, like power and torque readouts or the trip readings. The touchscreen for the infotainment doesn't feel very avant garde either; at 7” it’s a touch small and the resolution doesn’t look rich either. On the upside the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity worked smoothly and the four-speaker, two-tweeter combination for the sound system provided a full and clear sound experience. 

 

Tata Punch First Drive

Pack enough? 

The variants are named as Pure, Adventure, Accomplished and Creative, keeping the buyers’ personas in mind. The cooler part is the add-on packs that make every variant quite potent. The Rhythm Pack adds a four-speaker music system to the base Pure variant; whereas the Adventure adds the 7” infotainment system, two tweeters and a reversing camera. The Dazzle pack for the Accomplished variant brings 16” diamond-cut alloys, LED DRLs,

Tata Punch First Drive

projector headlamps and a blacked out A-pillar to give it the bling look. The top spec Creative variant gets the iRA connected car system too as an iRA Pack.

Tata Punch First Drive

But the top spec variant has some handy features like rain sensing wipers, auto headlamps, rear wash and wiper, auto-folding ORVMs and a cooled glovebox too which make it worth reaching out for. 

 

Tata Punch First Drive

In terms of safety equipment the Tata packs dual airbags, ABS with EBD and cornering safety control, and an added feature to keep the Punch stable while braking, as standard. Of course there’s reverse parking sensors, and ISOFIX anchor points for child seats. 

 

Tata Punch First Drive

Punchy Drive?

The Punch’s naturally aspirated 1.2 litre three-cylinder petrol engine looked set to be the chink in this Tata’s armour, because when we sampled in the Tata Altroz the engine’s lack of refinement and inconsistent power delivery made it rather disappointing. 

Tata Punch First Drive



 

Punch

Altroz

Ignis

Swift

Displacement

1199

1199

1197

1197

Cylinders

3 cyl

3 cyl

4 cyl

4 cyl

Power (PS @rpm)

86 @ 6000

86 @ 6000

83 @ 6000

90 @ 6000

Torque (Nm @rpm)

113 @ 3300

113 @ 3300

113 @ 4200

113 @4400

Gearbox

5-spd MT/AMT

5-spd MT/AMT

5-spd MT/AMT

5 MT/AMT

 

Tata Punch First Drive

In terms of numbers, the 86Ps of power and 113Nm of torque is unchanged from the Altroz, but  driving the Punch turned out to be very different. Smooth feeling and reasonably responsive too, and that’s with only updates to the software. Air flow to the engine has been improved as the higher hood height allows for the air intake to be positioned higher and closer to the engine, which along with shorter gearing improves responsiveness. Keep in mind, the Punch weighs about the same as the Altroz. 

 

Tata Punch First Drive

Acceleration (in seconds)

 

Punch

Grand i10 Nios

Ignis

Swift

0-100kmph

16.4

13

13.6

11.63

 

Tata Punch First Drive

But performance isn’t exactly punchy; it is adequate for a calm city commuter, and will cruise comfortably at triple digit speeds too. However, a change of pace will require patience or effort. For weekend trips, when climbing up to a hill station the need for more punch will be felt. The more powerful turbocharged version that was introduced later in the Altroz hasn’t been introduced in the Punch yet. If we were to recommend a variant of the Punch it would be the AMT. While it is slower in terms of acceleration, the shifts are unhurried and smooth, cutting the hassle while commuting by making the most of the drivability that the engine has to offer. On the highway you will prefer manual control when you need to pick up the pace. 

Tata Punch First Drive


Acceleration (in seconds)

 

Punch MT

Punch AMT

0-100kmph

16.4

18.3

 

Tata Punch First Drive

SUV Enough?

Sitting in the Punch you do get the sense of sitting higher up than hatches, and the large glass area gives you a good view out of the cabin too. As expected of an urban SUV the Punch doesn’t feel unruly or unmanageable. All the controls like steering, clutch, brake and gearshifts are smooth and well weighted, making it feel reassuring and easy to drive. The suspension tackles poor road surfaces such that it is hard to fault. Body roll is well controlled and it feels composed at high speeds, which bodes well for longer journeys in the Punch. 

 

Tata Punch First Drive

Tata even shared figures like approach, departure and ramp-over angles (20.3, 37.6 and 22.2 degrees, respectively), which we could test on a track. Its 370mm of wading depth and 190mm of ground clearance (unaden, 165mm fully loaded) were also challenged here. The Traction Pro mode, which requires the driver to press the brake and accelerator when prompted, works like an electronic differential lock by transferring the torque from a spinning wheel to the one with traction, thus pulling through slippery conditions. The track, although designed for the Punch, did help instil a sense of confidence in its abilities. 

Tata Punch First Drive

 

Verdict

So the Punch is a small package with a lot of substance that makes it good for everyday use with the space and ruggedness of an SUV. This sub-compact SUV’s premium cabin experience  gives it added appeal too.

Tata Punch First Drive

The engine, although adequate for commuting and making your way calmly, is the one aspect of this Tata that doesn't quite live up to its name.

The Punch was priced post this review between Rs 5.49 lakh - Rs 9.09lakh. It also received a 5-Star Global NCAP safety rating.

 

Tata Punch Video Review

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Tata Punch

Tata Punch

Rs. 5.49 Lakh Onwards
Ex-showroom, Delhi
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